Ragz Nordset on the remixes of her single Don’t You Forget and her creative process

Ragz Nordset released her first work for ages in the form of single Don’t You Forget, now she’s announced a brace of remixes to go with it.

Following the release of Ragz Nordset’sDon’t You Forget’ back in late May, Mellowtone Records’ latest release features reimaginations of the captivating track from producers Mario Leal and Drumwarp & Guevarism.

Don’t You Forget’ was released in May 2020, the first recorded music the Norwegian singer had shared in almost five years; a haunting and sparse piano and vocal track, recorded live at Liverpool’s Parr Street Studios.

And the new remixes will be released on 28 August 2020.

These brand new remixes take the original on an altogether different journey.

The first is from Mario Leal. It’s a downtempo electronic excursion – transforming the original into a pulsating and genre-spanning synth-infused musical workout – deceptively simple yet deep, grounded and nostalgic.

On a more psychedelic trip, Drumwarp & Guevarism’s remix is a bass-heavy trip, saturated in the Eastern scales.

We had a chat with Ragz to find out a bit more.

P3dro: Where are and what are you doing?

Ragz: Wow. OK. I am sitting at home, working on a syllabus for a university module at the moment, so I’m buried in research and trying to make sense of theories that I’m not quite sure I understand, myself.

P3dro: Where is home?

Ragz: Liverpool. Just by beautiful Sefton Park, so, I’m quite lucky in that sense. I’m building a module for [a student], so what I’m going into the material to build that subject for them. What I’m looking at for the moment is something called Intercultural leadership, in terms of how you accommodate in a work setting for any types of differences, how you understand them, work with them and then neutralise them.

P3dro: Wow.

Ragz: Yeah, it’s a head fuck.

P3dro: Anyway, we’re here to talk about music, not academia.

Ragz: Thank You. Now you get why this is a good thing for me on an afternoon on a Wednesday!

P3dro: Don’t You Forget was the first music you’d released for a while, wasn’t it?

Ragz: Yeah, we released a video in 2015. That was the last release of any kind before this one. So, yeah, there was a massive gap there in terms of releases, and anything really – any kind of musical activity or artistic platform.

P3dro: So, the obvious question is what were you doing in that time?

Ragz: That’s a very good question. I relocated, I left Liverpool in 2015 and [went to] Australia and went into quite a demanding leadership role, trying to build a music management degree at a college in Brisbane. That took about 70 hours of my week, every week for about two and a half years.

So there wasn’t much time to invest either energy or space to do anything creative. Your mind needs the space for that to land, to grow and progress. I didn’t have that space in my life at that time. It was time consuming and demanding, which steals creativity. So, that’s what I was doing – robbing myself of my own creativity.

P3dro: Don’t You Forget is a kind of sparse, stripped back record – just you and a piano. Obviously, the reason for having this discussion is the remixes which are coming out. What was the thinking behind doing those?

Ragz: I enjoy the process of letting something I have created become somebody else’s platform – that I can pass it on. We did that with our previous release, ‘Sleepdancing’. I enjoy that a lot, it’s quite refreshing and stimulating to experience your own music in a completely different setting and, perhaps, a completely different musical world as well.

That was something we adopted from then on. We have a lot of talented people around us. It was quite good, especially during lockdown to pass on what we were doing and build that with the other people who were surrounding us. So, it was handed to a few producers and the ones who decided to go with it were Mario and Ché & Josh. They have a very different musical soundscape from anything I’ve ever done myself. So, that’s very intriguing. It came together that way.

P3dro: We know you’ve worked with Mario before on You Started It All. What’s the connection?

Ragz: We have known each other through the general musical platform in Liverpool. We went to the same school and university, although not at the same time. That crowd can be quite small. He heard my music years and years ago and wanted to do something with songs that had already been recorded. They were quite sparse, which is kind of my style, but he wanted to introduce a more electronic landscape onto them.

And we became really good friends through that process. It’s been a while since we’ve done anything together. When I came back to Liverpool, there was always the idea that we would try and do something. So, to give him this one was a given.

P3dro: The Mario version is quite electronic, but the Ché one has a kind of eastern tinge to it.

Ragz: Definitely, I think the sitar kind of sets into that. It’s quite trippy and beautifully sinister, When I first heard it I remember having to sit down and then I started smiling without quite knowing why. It has a sense of trip-hop and there’s something bass heavy about it, which I really love.

There’s a definite eastern feel about it, almost like you’re in a fog. Like I’m in heavy set India, almost, at sunset or sundown.

P3dro: Yeah, with a glass of Bacardi and coke.

Ragz: [Laughs]. Yeah, or some other substance.

P3dro: Where do you think you get your musical influences from?

Ragz: They’re all emotional, which is why it’s difficult to say. Stylistically, I’m not writing in the way I would have preferred when I started writing songs as a young, young, teenager.

Musically, what tends to happen for me is that I’m inspired by harmonies and dissonance. That may sound a bit corny, but I just feel like melodies start landing. So for anything that happens in a song, it has to come from something within me. There’s an emotional root for everything that happens when I write.

So, it starts there and the musical texture around that has to fit how it feels. And what fits that feeling tends to be slightly different each time.

Musically, it’s hard to say, because it’s sparse, like you were saying – it’s acoustic and piano based a lot of the time. But I think that has to do with my resources, rather than any musical inspiration – that’s what’s at hand at the time. I don’t currently have a studio or access to [one]. So, I’m kind of limited to the piano and a guitar.

P3dro: How have the last four months been for you?

Ragz: Definitely missing an outlet. I have my guitar here, so I have access to that, much to my neighbours’ detriment. During lockdown I’ve had a need to write lyrics, reflectively, rather than creating music. I think the reason for that is that melodies can sometimes be too triggering emotionally, so if I’m in a state where I feel a bit pressured, which is what lockdown has done to all of us, it can be easier to deal with the rhythm and the flow of the words than to enter the musical aspects.

In a way, for me that’s perhaps a good thing, because I’ve been needing to deal with the meaning of things, rather than the feel of things.

I think it’s been overwhelming and that’s not always a good space to create. Although, others have been inspired [by lockdown] so that just depends on how your mode of expression functions. I have spent this time being really reflective a lot and using it that way, to be inspired in other ways. I think it’s forced people to look at their lives.

And that can be quite terrifying. But for me it’s been a really good thing. I think I’m forming a base of gratitude and appreciation. Now it’s slightly looser and we’re not as cooped up in our houses or flats, we’re allowed out more and can see more people, which is more humane and, therefore now I can feel it was incredibly intense, but perhaps a bit useful, if its OK to say that, because it allowed us to recognise contrasts – the before and after.

I think a lot of people needed that slow down.

That is aside from all the trauma from what the Government is currently doing and not doing and pretending to be doing. Because there are other losses here – not just outdoor life – in terms of our industry and other suffering, but that aside, it’s not a one sided discussion. There are so many things going on at the same time.

Ragz Nordset – credit Robin Clewley

P3dro: Obviously the remixes are coming out, but do you have any plans for releasing anything else coming up?

Ragz: There are no concrete plans for now – I’m going into a Doctorate for next year, so that will be quite intense for me, I think. There might be pockets of creativity and time to write and I’m hoping that may happen, but I can’t put that pressure on myself, because I think it would be less likely to happen if I’m expecting it.

So, it’s some form of Murphy’s Law, I suppose. So if I go: I’m gonna write loads of music now and it’s gonna be me and my research and then I’ll do music, then it’s not gonna happen. It’s like, if you take an umbrella then it’s not going to rain. But, there’s definitely music brewing, let’s put it that way.

P3dro: Well, you’ve spent all this time writing the words.

Ragz: Yes. There might be a lyric book coming for all I know. I tend to jump on opportunities. We’ll see what the rest of 2020 brings. And, then hopefully 2021 will look a bit brighter.

P3dro: So, do we take it the answer to the next question about plans for gigs would be much the same?

Ragz: Yes and No. It really depends on what happens with venues and what kind of alternatives we end up with. The last thing I’d want to do was to put anyone in a situation where they don’t feel safe.

Let’s just see what happens to our performance spaces. I’m not a fan of doing online gigs without access to my audience, because there’s something about live performances that needs to happen in the room. I feel you need to be in the same room [together]. You can communicate more. Emotionally, I rely on my audience to be present with me.

So, unless we can take it onto a live platform to be present with people, then I’m not sure. But then again, we have incredible minds working in our industry, so I’m hopeful it can start functioning again in a way where it’s justifiable, then there may be a couple of gigs.

P3dro: Is there anything, a band or an album you’re listening to right now that you can recommend?

Ragz: Oh, wow. Quite a lot. My taste is quite eclectic, so Emilie Nicolas released an album called Let Her Breathe. She’s a very emotional singer. She’s one of my favourite Norwegian creatives, so that’s been spinning quite a lot.

Also, I have not been able to resist Crazy P with Ron Basejam, who did one of my earlier remixes. It’s amazing.

Also Melanie De Biasio and her cover of Afro Blue. It’s just where I go when I need to be emotional, but also calm.

I tend to collect things into playlists. There are two on [my] Spotify page. There’s one called Pleasure Pulse, which is quite electronic and then there’s another one called Songs with Corners, which is quite acoustic – everything from Beirut to Bon Iver.

P3dro: Thanks, Ragz.

Ragz: No, thank you. You’ve opened my head. I’ve just been buried in books and screens all morning.

The remixes of Don’t You Forget are out on 28 August at all the usual places.

Header image credit – Robin Clewley

One thought on “Ragz Nordset on the remixes of her single Don’t You Forget and her creative process

  1. Fantastic voice and simple piano works.

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